Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Democratic Rural Conference (From 150 Miles Away)

Democratic Rural Conference [dem-uh-krat-ik  roor-uhl  kon-fer-uhns]

Definition: A yearly function in New York State Democratic politics where liberals, blue dogs and pretenders from the population wastelands of an urban-driven state gather to make each other feel better about being ignored for roughly 363 days a year.

I was supposed to drive down to Corning for this year's edition, but I decided to do something fun instead. Corning's a nice town and all, but let's face it, sometimes free drinks and a side trip to the glass museum just don't provide enough incentive to spend a weekend wallowing in self-pity with a thousand other disenfranchised liberals.

Formed in 1996, the DRC has always been a nice idea, and at times it's been an effective organization. The stated goal of the DRC is to help upstate, rural New York elect Democratic candidates by uniting as a single force from our individual counties. The DRC has done its best to live up to that mission statement, providing seed money to fund-starved local committees, hosting election training sessions and, of course, putting together this annual farm-lib boondoggle where big name candidates pretend to grovel at the feet of the Democratic faithful from the pasture lands. By the end of my first DRC in 2010 my ass felt so kissed I could barely sit from the hickeys.

It was all free rum and chicken wings, a self-deprecating speech from the soon to be departing Governor Paterson, semi-private parties in the upstairs hotel rooms and Young Democrats of America seminars talking about the new power of Twitter and snatching up the college kids before they became too much like their parents. DRC 2010: A perfect setting for the pre-pessimistic version of myself. 

Optimism has always been a disease most communicable within groups of low-powered liberals, though, and even through the haze of complimentary booze served up by union employees and a five course meal settling comfortably in my stomach, I started to get that not-quite right feeling. We were waiting for then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to make his grand entrance and there it was, the uncomfortable tickle you get in your throat the day before you come down with that truly righteous winter cold, the little hitch you feel when you're about to buy the car you're not quite sure about. It wasn't Cuomo himself that gave me that case of the oh no's, at least not really. It was the gathered crowd and the general feeling in the room. This group of a couple thousand didn't matter yesterdays and won't matter tomorrows was so stroked and puffed up they could barely contain themselves. They were back stage at the concert, out to dinner with the movie star and here I was, one of the mob. Cuomo entered from the kitchen and I was standing, cheering, clapping so hard my hands began to sting from the force and, in that moment, my resistance snapped. They had me cornered and happy to be so. Awash with good feeling, I knew I'm important because I'm HERE...

...and that's how they get you. It's how they convince you to go back to your committee and tell them how great it is to be a Democrat in a district that hates your guts. You head back home, you schedule the next meeting and when you're there, you tell the gathered party faithful, a crowd of twenty or less, 'We might not win them all this year, but we're going to fight like hell!' But you don't win any, and the hangover from the cheap rum lasts longer than the feeling of goodwill from the locals because reality sets in almost immediately.

What is the reality? It's losing that year's gubernatorial race in your county by thirty percent to a freelance  horse pornography distributor who scoffs at poor people and minorities. It's spending every weekend with the all too energetic emissaries from the Big Campaign... 


...and at somewhere during the whole pointless exercise, you start to understand something you never wanted to understand, or at least admit to. This is all an exercise in masturbation and you're never going to have a real date.

The DRC mission is pure, but it will never bear real fruit. Our rural registration disparity is too much to overcome without a generational shift and the political mathematicians worth their salt know it. So we get our oil topped off every once in a while, but nobody ever brings us in to the shop for a flush and a tune-up. Whatever, I suppose it's as good a reason as any to have a party.

So I didn't go to the DRC this year. I went to the movies instead, and it was great.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chris Collins Has A Problem

Let's say you're a candidate running in the NY-27 Republican primary. You wake up in the morning, yawn, maybe take a gratuitous scratch or two at your nether parts and meander into your bathroom. You turn on the sink faucet and slowly look up then........ BAM!!! Your entire day has just been ruined because the face staring back at you from the mirror waiting to have its teeth brushed is none other than the highly unlikable ignorer of rat infestations, former Erie County Executive Chris Collins.

It's ok, you think to yourself. I have a ton of cash and the might of the Erie County Republican Committee behind me. I'm unstoppable.

So, you finish brushing your teeth and take a shower. Things are starting to look up. Even though you were unceremoniously tossed out of office by the voters of Erie County just a few months ago, you know you're going to have an easy time getting elected to Congress in a newly drawn district. You're certain that Democrat Kathy Hochul's win in last year's special election was a fluke and nobody is going to stand in your way.

You start to whistle as you swagger through the house toward the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. As you pass through the dining room you notice the table is covered with newspapers from all the towns and cities in the congressional district. This irritates you just a little because back when you were the Erie County Executive, you only had to read the Buffalo News, but now every morning you're forced to skim articles about 4-H competitions, farm labor and myriad other things that happen in the muddy places outside of Spaulding Lake.

On top of the news pile is the most recent edition of the Batavia Daily News. You pick it up and skim an article about Congresswoman Kathy Hochul doing useful things for farmers. You scoff at the idea, turn to page 2 and right there plain as day is a story about your Republican primary opponent, David Bellavia, announcing the members of his steering committee. Bellavia has received the endorsement of every rural county in a district that has become more pasture than pavement. His steering committee is made up of  rural county Republican Committee whip crackers, heavy hitters and true believers and the article suggests that more of these people are showing up every day, volunteering for an opportunity to make your retirement from politics a permanent arrangement.

You are Chris Collins and you have a big problem.